Celebrities vs celebrities: Now comes a counter letter!

Celebrities vs celebrities: Now comes a counter letter!

Prasoon Joshi, Kangana and 59 others speak out against 'selective outrage (DH Photo)

Three days after a group of celebrities, artists, academicians and eminent citizens wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the rising incidents of hate crimes and lynching in the country and how 'Jai Shri Ram' has become a "provocative war cry", a group of similar composition has come out with a letter to counter their narrative.

The 62 signatories of Friday's letter, titled Against Selective Outrage & False Narratives, include veteran filmmaker Ashoke Pandit, who is the convenor of the Indian Film and Television Directors' Association (IFTDA); three-time National-award winning actor Kangana Ranaut; lyricist Prasoon Joshi, who is the chairperson of Central Board of Film Certification; internationally-acclaimed dancer Sonal Mansingh; and filmmakers Madhur Bhandarkar and Vivek Agnihotri.

They hailed Modi's leadership and explained how the prime minister is working on 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas, Sabha Vishwas'.

On Tuesday (23 July),  49 personalities, including filmmakers Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Mani Ratnam, Anurag Kashyap, Shyam Benegal, Aparna Sen, vocalist Shubha Mudgal and historian Ramchandra Guha, expressed concern at the number of "religious identity-based hate crimes" and noted that 'Jai Shri Ram' has become a provocative war cry with many lynchings taking place in its name.

Referring to the letter, the 62 signatories said: "... It (the July 23 letter) is aimed at tarnishing India's international standing and to negatively portray the prime minister's untiring efforts to effectuate governance on the foundations of positive nationalism and humanism which are at the core of Indianess".

The statement said that the 49 personalities remain silent when separatists issue diktats to burn schools in Kashmir, when the demand for "dismembering India, when making pieces of her— Tukde Tukde— were made" and when "slogans chanted by terrorists and terror groups were echoed in some leading university campuses in the country."

"For the signatories, it seems the freedom, unity and integrity of India can be bartered away in the name of freedom of speech and expression. But for us, the unity and integrity of India, her freedom is sacrosanct and anyone who questions these, who works to dilute or destroy these, who conspires to disturb these need to be resisted. Some of the signatories to the 'open letter'  have a record of acting as mouthpieces and ideologues for insurgents, separatists and terrorists in the past. Their concern, therefore, smacks of dishonesty and opportunism," the strongly-worded letter said. 

It said that "this very group"  did not display the courage to stand beside women who were opposed to and are struggling against the regressive triple talaq tradition and did not speak out for the need of equality and empowerment in this case. The selective outrage and amnesia of this particular group makes us believe that they are working to a certain agenda and are only playing into the hands of those forces that are out to Balkanise India and to destabilise her," it said.

"This group has also repeatedly expressed disdain for the faith of the majority in India. They have repeatedly heaped derision on those who believe in Lord Ram and who derive strength and solace by chanting his sacred name. This letter is a disguised attempt to pour disdain on the subalterns for whom faith and worship are defining dimensions," it adds.

Meanwhile, veteran Bollywood singer Asha Bhosale added a bit of humour and tried to calm down tempers.

"Dum Maro Dum... Bolo Subh Shyam Hare Krishna Hare Ram... Can I perform this evergreen song or not ?," Asha Bhosale, a recepient of the coveted Dadasaheb Phalke award, tweeted.